In 1972, the Montreal Expos were an old team. Despite being an expansion club, manager Gene Mauch liked older, established players and the Bronfmans (who owned the team) were partial to former Dodgers. That summer, 1972, a young man named Pepe Mangual made an appearance in an Expos uniform. He was a fleet outfielder and 20, the first of a watershed of young outfielders who appeared over the next five seasons.
The next year came Tony Scott and then Jerry White in 1974. Summer 1975 saw Mangual emerge as a regular and the first at-bats of Ellis Valentine and Bombo Rivera. By 1976, the entire outfield—Rivera, Valentine and catcher-in-waiting Gary Carter—were kids from the system and regular starters on the team. That same season, Gary Roenicke, Andrew Dawson and Warren Cromartie all made their major league debuts.
Each man was given at least some time at the big league level and many received 500 at-bats in a season and a full shot at a career at the highest level of baseball. At some point, Pepe Mangual was ready for a full season, to see what he could deliver, and the Montreal Expos made room. In his fifth Expos season, Mangual lost his job in the Expos outfield to Ellis Valentine. There is no shame in that, Valentine was one of the truly phenomenal prospects the Expos ever drafted.
Anton Slepyshev might be Pepe Mangual, or he might be Warren Cromartie, but at some point the Edmonton Oilers have to give him 500 at-bats. He got about half a season in 2016-17, suspect he’ll get the full run this year. There are some smart people who believe he can score 20 goals in a full season, and that would be exceptional for the current edition of the Oilers.
His comparables are an interesting group, ranging from Chris Neil to Val Filppula. Slepyshev has some promising things in his game, including a very effective shot. Can he score 20? The only way to find out is to give him a chance.
I received a few comments overnight and today about the Oilers and the right-wing situation. Some of you think it is time to make a trade, to find a more proven RW and move on from the young and unproven players like Slepyshev. While that is an option, the Oilers are clearly focused on finding out about some of their youth. The Oilers are going to see how he shines in a starting role, just as the Montreal Expos auditioned Pepe Mangual 45 years ago.
IT’S MCDAVID’S FINAL ENTRY SEASON!
Yes, I understand that this is the final season for 97’s entry-level deal and that’s an excellent point. However, if Slepyshev scores 20 goals this season and can be signed to a reasonable deal moving forward, that’s going to benefit this organization for 2017-18 and beyond. It is right to give this player a full chance. The coach likes him, he did have some success in the spring during the playoffs.
I don’t know if Anton Slepyshev is going to make it with the Edmonton Oilers as a productive NHL player. I do know there’s only one way to find out. If he doesn’t work out, say by mid-season, then a trade can address the situation. Putting Anton Slepyshev into the starting lineup on Saturday is the right thing to do, and this isn’t just a three-game thing. He appears to be NHL-ready based on everything we know. No one grabbed this job while he was out, now it’s Anton’s turn.